The resignation of coach Jeff Bzdelik was greeted with joy by Wake Forest students. His teams went 51-76 over his five year coaching career. Although athletic director Ron Wellman called him “a man of great character,” one fact remains: Jeff Bzdelik now heads the list of unpopular coaches. To celebrate the coach’s resignation, Wake Forest students marked it with an action usually reserved for great athletic victories. They “rolled the quad.” That is, upon hearing the news that Bzdelik would not return, they began tossing rolls of toilet paper into the trees in the University’s quad area.
While Jeff Bzdelik heads this week’s list of the nation’s more unpopular coaches, others have been cited for that dubious honor in past years. When football coach Lane Kiffin left Tennesses to coach Southern California after just 14 months on the job, one Volunteer student suggested a way to mark Kiffin’s tenure at the college. He recommended “naming a waste water plant” after the coach. Kiffin further angered Vols fans by bringing the NCAA down on the University due to his secondary violations. Once at Southern Cal, Kiffin managed to stir up fans there by offering a scholarship to a seventh grader.
At first glance John Calipari looks like the ideal college basketball coach. He led Umass to the NCAA’s Final Four in 1966, then moved on to the NBA just in time. The NCAA discounted the university’s appearance in basketball’s Big Dance when Umass star Marcus Camby was reported taking money from an agent. Following a horrible career with the New Jersey Nets, Calipari signed with Memphis and led the school to another Final Four. That appearance was again vacated by the NCAA when the team’s freshman point guard was ruled ineligible because his SAT score was ruled fraudulent. Later, coaching at Kentucky, he angered Wildcat fans when all five of his starters were taken on the first round of the NBA draft. He called the event “the greatest day” in the University’s basketball history. Former Kentucky basketball star Dan Issel called that comment “the dumbest thing” he’d ever heard. These coaches took all their turns at the top of the list. This week it is clear, however, that former coach Jeff Bzdelik is now listed in the phone book under unpopular .
Yet another name that has headed past lists belongs to a man who coaches soccer across the “pond,” Facio Capello. He took England’s high hopes for a World Cup and dashed them against the turf when he lost the players on his national team by sticking to a system that obviously wasn’t working. That was inexcusable for an English national coach, especially one making nearly $9 million (in US funds) a year.
When it comes to hockey coaches it is said that John Tortortella was disliked even by members of the New York Rangers, the team he coached. In baseball, the sobriquet at one time probably belonged to Kirk Gibson. It is said that he is liked by fans of his own team but disliked by everyone else because of his attitude and smug nature. Also, word spread that he did not even attend his son’s high school graduation, saying kids are supposed to graduate.
Others coaches may have led the pack at times. Sure, one day, another coach will come along and make us forget all about what happened at Wake Forest. However, for now it can be said that Jeff Bzdelik is at the head of the list of sport’s most unpopular coaches.
Commentary by B. David Warner